YouTube channel owners: Is your content directed to children?

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Under COPPA, how do I know if my channel is “directed to children”? Since the FTC and New York Attorney General announced their September 2019 settlement with YouTube for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, we’ve heard that question from channel owners – sometimes called content creators. If you’re a channel owner who shares content on user-generated platforms like YouTube, read on for FTC staff guidance about the applicability of the COPPA Rule and how those covered by the Rule can comply with its requirements.

The FTC action against YouTube and Google

The lawsuit against YouTube and Google alleged that the companies illegally collected personal information from children, in violation of COPPA. According to the complaint, the companies collected that information from viewers of child-directed YouTube channels in the form of persistent identifiers that track users across the Internet, but didn’t notify parents and get their consent. To settle the case, YouTube and Google agreed to create a mechanism so that channel owners can designate when the videos they upload to YouTube are – to use the words of COPPA – “directed to children.” The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that both YouTube and channel owners are complying with the law.

A COPPA recap

That provision of the settlement has raised questions among content creators about how to determine if what they upload to YouTube or other platforms is “directed to children.” The answer requires a brief summary of some key COPPA provisions. Passed by Congress in 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13. COPPA’s foundational principle is one that most people can agree on: Parents – not kids, companies, platforms, or content creators – should be in control when it comes to information collected from children online.

The FTC enforces the law through the COPPA Rule. In general, COPPA requires operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children (more about that in a minute) to provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect personal information from kids under 13.

The COPPA Rule defines “personal information” to include obvious things like a child’s first and last name or home address, but that’s not all. Under COPPA, personal information also covers what are called persistent identifiers – behind-the-scenes code that recognizes a user over time and across different sites or online services. That could be an IP address or a cookie when it’s used to serve targeted ads. Keep in mind that an operator also might be collecting personal information through an open comment field on its site or service that allows a user under 13 to make personal information publicly available. For example, think of a comment like this on a child-directed site: My name is Mary Jones from Springfield. I love this video!

How COPPA applies to channel owners

So how does COPPA apply to channel owners who upload their content to YouTube or another third-party platform? COPPA applies in the same way it would if the channel owner had its own website or app. If a channel owner uploads content to a platform like YouTube, the channel might meet the definition of a “website or online service” covered by COPPA, depending on the nature of the content and the information collected. If the content is directed to children and if the channel owner, or someone on its behalf (for example, an ad network), collects personal information from viewers of that content (for example, through a persistent identifier that tracks a user to serve interest-based ads), the channel is covered by COPPA. Once COPPA applies, the operator must provide notice, obtain verifiable parental consent, and meet COPPA’s other requirements. For information on how to comply with COPPA, please visit the FTC’s COPPA page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

How channel owners can determine if their content is directed to children

Under COPPA, there is no one-size-fits-all answer about what makes a site directed to children, but we can offer some guidance. To be clear, your content isn’t considered “directed to children” just because some children may see it. However, if your intended audience is kids under 13, you’re covered by COPPA and have to honor the Rule’s requirements.

The Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed:

  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives,
  • the kind of music or other audio content,
  • the age of models,
  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children,
  • language or other characteristics of the site,
  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children, and
  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.

The determination of whether content is child-directed will be clearer in some contexts than in others, but we can share some general rules of thumb. First, unless you’re affirmatively targeting kids, there are many subject matter categories where you don’t have to worry about COPPA. For example, if your videos are about traditionally adult activities like employment, finances, politics, home ownership, home improvement, or travel, you’re probably not covered unless your content is geared toward kids. The same would be true for videos aimed at high school or college students. On the other hand, if your content includes traditional children’s pastimes or activities, it may be child-directed. For example, the FTC recently determined that an online dress-up game was child-directed.

Second, just because your video has bright colors or animated characters doesn’t mean you’re automatically covered by COPPA. While many animated shows are directed to kids, the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone.

Third, the complaint in the YouTube case offers some examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children. For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Want to see the FTC’s analysis in context? Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint.

Finally, if you’ve applied the factors listed in the COPPA Rule and still wonder if your content is “directed to children,” it might help to consider how others view your content and content similar to yours. Has your channel been reviewed on sites that evaluate content for kids? Is your channel – or channels like yours – mentioned in blogs for parents of young children or in media articles about child-directed content? Have you surveyed your users or is there other empirical evidence about the age of your audience?

What are the possible penalties for violating COPPA?

The Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation, but the FTC considers a number of factors in determining the appropriate amount, including a company’s financial condition and the impact a penalty could have on its ability to stay in business. While Google and YouTube paid $170 million, in another COPPA case settled this year, the operator paid a total civil penalty of $35,000.

Isn’t the FTC taking another look at the COPPA Rule?

Yes, the FTC is currently evaluating the Rule in light of rapid changes in technology. If you would like to comment on the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether changes are needed, the FTC has extended the comment deadline to December 9, 2019.

Where can channel owners go for more information?

A look at the factors in the COPPA Rule will help most channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. If you’re still unsure about how COPPA applies to you, consider contacting an attorney or consulting with one of the COPPA Safe Harbor programs – self-regulatory groups that offer guidance on how operators can comply with the law. Visit the FTC’s website for a list of currently approved Safe Harbor organizations. For more resources, visit the FTC’s Children’s Privacy page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

 
 
 

Comments

Please help me kids of

If I were to make a "mixed audience" video on YouTube (such as the example of an gaming video with adult humor), if I put a "13+" in my channel description where people will see it am I fine to keep making videos or is that a violation of COPPA?

The FTC cannot approve particular websites or online services or provide an opinion on whether a specific site or service is directed to children.

As I live in the UK I hardly think it's necessary that this is applied to my device, AND considering I am over the age of 13 how is it that this is on my YouTube. How can I stop this disrupting me?

What if a youtuber creates Art drawing lessons, Or music teaching lessons, That are aimed at a general audience of art hobbyists, Or learner musicians, Eg: content that could possibly appeal to people of all ages; How to draw things, or just an art entertainment video of drawing a specific thing from start to finish, Examples of Things drawn could be: Marvel characters, Star Wars characters, Examples of music taught to musicians, could be church music, Can a youtuber set these videos as for a General Audience?

I'm Plus 29 Years

My daughter has a children's ministry channel on YouTube.
The only problem I have with this is that her subscribers can't be notified when she uploads a new video.
It seems to me that this restriction is going to reduce her audience. I get that thia is in place to protect her but it also limits her.
Also her channel can only be found if you have the link. How is she supposed to gain more viewers if no one can find her videos? The fact that her channel can only be found by those who already have the link kind of limits her audience.
Another issue is that even she can't see how many subscribers she has. I know thia because I actually produce her channel for her so I have full access to her account.
I fully understand the protection that you are trying to put into place but the restrictions to the channel itself seem unfair to the uploader. If I post her content as not for kids then she is in danger of violating this law yet she loses features that help grow her audience and keep them up to date.
This doesn't seem fair to the uploader. Please consider the amount of restrictions that are now being placed on these accounts and/or videos as a violation of free speech and press. My daughter should have just as much right as I have. Even with the protection in place.
I will gladly keep marking her content in accordance with the law but some concessions should be made on the uploader's behalf.

Is Nickelodeon only for kids? Is Disney only for kids? Is Cartoon Metwork only for kids? Is Nintendo only for kids? How about Pokemon, Mario, Donkey Kong? Because last I checked all these things are for all ages, not just kids. Can I sue Angela Campbell for discrimination for assuming that these things are only for children? Adults deserve engagement as well. Children no matter, as long as their parents allow them to, are going to see behavioral ads. Does Angela J Campbell even acknowledge that?

I am a Sunday school teacher in the UK and I need to save religious songs so my Sunday school children can learn them and then I can send the link to the parents but now I am unable to do so.

Any ideas what I can do now?

I started a new channel and I am very confused that is my videos is made for kids or not I make educational videos about the countries and people like the richest countries and the richest person or the most beautiful countries in the world and children and adult both like these type of videos so I don't know what to do now?

Sir mere all videos made for kids hai

Dear FTC i am a YouTube creator im 18 and i like to know if the rure of COPPA apply to Greece and Europe in general and if i play a 18 rated game would it be for adults or kids ?

Foreign-based websites and online services must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the United States, or if they knowingly collect personal information from children in the U.S.

The law’s definition of “operator” includes foreign-based websites and online services that are involved in commerce in the United States or its territories.

U.S.-based sites and services that collect information from foreign children also are subject to COPPA. See COPPA FAQS B.7. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-coppa-frequently-asked-questions

I don't now why I don’t get the chat on YouTube I got a virus on my pc only I don’t now of that is why I don’t get a chat

Why not comment??

I want to Bell icon to see the video on time to get notifications

How do I turn this off

This regulation is totally inappropriate forTeachers of the Blind/Partially sighted. These videos are often used to address Visual Limitations of infants and Toddlers who require VISUAL STIMULATION. Images as well as manipulatives are essential during Vision Education Instruction to assist child in achieving desired Goals and Objectives. Please review this new regulation.
THANK YOU.
CLARISSA JONES-EDWARDS
NEW YORK STATE TEACHER OF THE BLIND/PARTIALLY SIGHTED
PERMANENTLY CERTIFIED

I think it’s hilarious how you guys don’t even know anymore according to what I see in the comments. An AI can’t even know, how can you possibly? I mean there’s hundreds of things that kids are interested but so are adults. This includes how to videos, Pokémon, Mario, donkey Kong, hot wheels, lego, Disney, Star Wars, marvel, DC, movies, Roblox, Minecraft, the sims, technology, travel, sports, gymnastics, Barbie, dolls. You just can’t possibly know. If you were you would be mind reader. This not a rule that can apply to content creators. Because with that rule, no matter what kids are going to see personalized ads. Which honestly, is the stupidest thing we could be protecting them from.

I can choose an ad in my YouTube video

I want to subscribe to channels

Coppa is not working right please help make it work right please fix it now thank you

Parent should be responsible for their children. I am a parent and I often have saved YouTube videos for my kids and grandkids. Now, thanks to this law, I can no longer do that because they have turned off the ability to save them. This is an option I used often to make sure they were viewing approved videos. Kind of stinks to punish responsible parents for doing the right thing.

Delete this rule from existence. It's stupid, and should have never invaded youtube, it limits channel creators, so please, get rid of this from youtube.

Fun, laughter, community,

sorry about the same in

Here is my question. Before this matter came up, I was on the fence about creating a Channel at all. I had only uploaded 3 videos showcasing my work with hair extensions hair coloring and so forth. Once I heard this news about this law then I quickly deleted those three videos I did have up on my channel. My question is this, how is beauty hair extensions cosmetology related content categorized underneath this law? Because now, we have to take into account if our creativity with cosmetology related things such as styling hair, braiding hair, coloring hair, bleaching here Will be affected or if it will be a problem underneath this law. Waiting for your reply. Thank you in advance.

Yes, i agree this rules

Dear coppa, we do understand that YouTube messed up but do you realize that some of those “kids videos” are how people make a living? Also you restrain a video that has minimal cussing while some you tubers are posting much much worst, honestly I think it’s unfair that you suddenly start restricting “kids videos” assuming that adults can’t like fun, happy, colorful, funny, Things. We appreciate that you are just trying to make up for YouTube’s mistakes but it’s a bit harsh restricting a video that could’ve taken hours, weeks, days even months to make, Hope you read this and try to understand that because YouTube messes up doesn’t mean that you have to punish the people who post, have a good 2020 and new decade and really consider what I’m trying to convey here

I cant subscribe on some channels , how can i change settings for this?

Open my comments

I have a very small YouTube channel. And due to coppa my videos are being changed to "for children" by the YouTube algorithm, despite being a religious/philosophical channel with content to complex for young minds.
How do I go about protecting myself when YouTube is changing my settings every few hours?

I think that at this moment from all the detals is correct

So, Say if I were to create videos for a game like For Honor or Dark Souls III, would that consider my content directed towards children? If I mark my content as 'Not directed towards children.' would I be exempt from these rules? How can I make sure the content I created isn't considered Directed towards children?

My channel is not for children

My content is for child

THIS IS NEVER RESPECTFULL COPPA IS NOT EVEN HELPING AND ALL YOU DO IS IGNORE US PLS REMOVE IT IT RUIN YOUTUBE

Made for kids no

AS A YOU–TUBE CREATER I HAVE NEVER NEVER DREAMT OF MAKING ANY VIDEO FOR CHILDREN.NO NO.

my notification bell won't work, I've now fixed my settings and new subscribers still cannot hit my bell...how do I get this fixed?

Yes my Vidios for everyone....

My video is not for kids

What about toy reviews? Many of them are not directed to children yet the algorithm labels it as so. People who do reviews on Model Kits, Transformers and Anime Figurines are always marketed at children, however, the algorithm believes it is so because they are "toys". They are many grey areas in what is considered as Adult or Child content.
$42K is quite the hefty sum of money for a fine. Those who are fined are dealing with huge losses of money. It could be worse if the content creator's only income of money is Youtube?

I think that this Idea is good,just it is important that kids are learning something new like music or a new artists but that is only the way I think.

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